Lap dancing reform.

// 19 October 2009

Anti-objectification group, Object, have been campaigning for a change to the licensing laws surrounding strip clubs and lap dancing since April 2008. There has been a huge increase in the number of strip clubs in the UK since the introduction of the Licensing Act 2003, whereby strip clubs are licensed in the same way as cafes and restaurants, making it very hard for residents to object to them opening. Object have successfully pushed for the government to introduce proposals for strip clubs to be licensed as ‘Sex Encounter Venues’:

Changing licensing laws will allow local authorities to apply crucial controls and bring greater transparency to the industry – protecting both women who work in lap dancing clubs and women who live or work near lap dancing clubs. It willl give local communities back their say in licensing processes – a say which has been severely restricted by the Licensing Act 2003.

But, argue Object, the proposals are ‘seriously flawed’:

…they will be optional, creating a postcode lottery in which only some councils consider licensing in relation to gender and sexism – and contain a frequency based exemption, which will create a large loophole for the growing number of leisure venues putting on lap dancing / stripping nights.

The proposals will be debated in the House of Lords on November 3rd, and Lord Norton wants your opinion. Let him know what you think here. If you want to get involved in Object’s campaign, see here for more information on how to lobby peers and MPs.

Comments From You

Jackie Bather // Posted 19 October 2009 at 12:03 pm

It’s truly mind-blowing that as a society, we seriously allow men to denigrate women in this way,using them as sexual entertainment.This objectification of women, really belongs to some sad and probably unenlightened distant past, yet here it is, hanging on.

Daniela Vincenti // Posted 19 October 2009 at 6:41 pm

Laura this post has quite a few similarities to the prostitution in South Africa and my thoughts are broadly similar. On the whole, I think Object is correct in pushing for a denormalisation here, although I would not go as far as a complete ban.

Once again I issue a plea to the girls working in this industry – this is a chance to make your voice heard. You can contribute here with a pseudonym and a false email address if you wish. We need to hear how these proposals will affect you.

Natalie // Posted 19 October 2009 at 8:49 pm

Go object! So unhappy their grass- roots campaigns are fixed in London :( I’m a distant fan!

David // Posted 19 October 2009 at 10:54 pm

Claiming that laws that permit sex work are an example of society “allowing men to denigrate women…as sexual entertainment” is disingenuous and misses the point. There are actually two issues here.

The first issue is a question of how much liberty women should legally have over their bodies. As far as I’m concerned the answer to that question (whether male or female) is “as much as possible”. I’d think feminists would say the same vis à vis women.

The second issue is a question of the morality of sexual expression and sexual entertainment. There is a moral objection to these among old-school “feminists” and religious people, which is fine. But to the degree that one’s values on this moral issue trump the liberty issue of the first is the degree to which society is more paternalistic than free (something which I oppose, and which anyone who values liberty should too, whether the paternalism comes from religious *or* secular ideology).

So it’s not so much that society “allows men to denigrate women…as sexual entertainment” as much as it is that society allows women to use their own bodies to titillate men (which some may regard as denigrating) who seek titillation as entertainment.

gadgetgal // Posted 20 October 2009 at 11:04 am

@David

Actually that’s not the point – the point at the moment is the surge of places like this in areas that aren’t necessarily appropriate (e.g. schools, or areas that are already dangerous for women), the normalisation of it making it almost impossible to object (even to your partner), and also it being used in the workplace as corporate entertainment, which then means not only are women objectified but they also find it difficult to climb the corporate ladder to counteract that opinion in any way! It’s disingenuous to say that the only issues here are a woman’s right to use her body as she wishes and her morality, it’s much more complicated than that, and affects many more people than either the workers or the punters.

Amy // Posted 20 October 2009 at 11:42 am

Women might not be doing it to ‘tittilate’, there’s a reason the pay is so good.

There will always be women willing to do something. Most don’t like the attitudes associated with lap dance clubs, the fact politicians and those in highest power seem to get off on sitting back in power- suits in power meetings at the ‘self’ denigrating of women.

There’s a definite luxury in lap dancing with seeing women act/ be ‘in their place’. Whether some women jump at the chance to get the attention with the job is besides the point.

Sophie // Posted 20 October 2009 at 12:01 pm

As an ex-stripper I find the way I was exploited as an 18-year-old disgusting. I think that there should be strict laws that people working in these places are over 21. I was in care most of my life and was very vulnerable when I started working at a national chain. I actually find it hideous that most of the men (403, 50s, 60s) were old enough to be my grandad and enjoyed perving over someone who still looked very childlike. There were also the men who just came in to abuse us, while we were dancing tell us we were ugly, they could smell our fannies, our tits were too small. Lapdancing clubs are very different to a sex show which is on-stage, choreographed and anyone being abusive is sent out. There’s also the distance between that person and the audience. I have never worked in a stripclub that was not about sex. It is not entertainment. It’s about power and control, men trying to buy sex (I was asked almost every night if I did “extras”). It’s a joke they are classed as cafes. The funniest thing is when you see a punter out and they think you are friends! Men go to these places because it makes them feel powerful you HAVE to be nice to them you HAVE to take your clothes off for them. In the outside world you wouldn’t look twice at them. The worst thing I ever experienced was a carer who bought a bus of special needs men in. It was very very cruel.

Kayley // Posted 20 October 2009 at 12:14 pm

“So it’s not so much that society “allows men to denigrate women…as sexual entertainment” as much as it is that society allows women to use their own bodies to titillate men (which some may regard as denigrating) who seek titillation as entertainment.”

Is it just me who finds this kind of deraling offensive?

Fair enough you object to the idea it degrades women, but saying it gives women rights more than any other career? It’s about this? When most girls get sick of being leered at… What the hell are you trying to ‘sell’ to us?

How can you argue they have the empowerfulness of women in mind in essence?

I love how these men are the first to state how they’re feminists, when they disagree with everything you have to ask ‘in what sense’?

Jackie Bather // Posted 20 October 2009 at 12:56 pm

David,

As far as I am aware, it is women who have had their bodies sexually exploited ad infinitum, not men. Saying that we should have as much liberty over our physical selves as we wish,is a very handy way of explaining why strip clubs and lap-dancing clubs should proliferate.There are issues of power control and abuse here…which you are neatly side-stepping.The men are the paying customers-they have the financial control, not the workers.

Most WOMEN will tell you that the idea of men jiggling around, putting up with offensive remarks, while their paying controllers -women-demand even more exploitative behaviour from them,is difficult to envisage.

By the way, thanks to Sophie for giving us the true picture here. And am I the only feminist to be fed-up with these ‘weighty comments’ from irritatingly non-feminist men, who are probably not that concerned about the physical and mental health of the workers involved anyway ?

gadgetgal // Posted 20 October 2009 at 1:00 pm

@Sophie

I hope you’re ok now – I had to leave home when I was 15 so I know the pressure to do things I wouldn’t normally, and also how vulnerable that makes you to others who want to take advantage. I had brief spells in two places (one lap dancing, one a pervy bar where you hung around in your underwear to hock drinks to guys), and I also know how it’s not what most women think – when I hear my friends say they’re not bothered if their boyfriends go because it’s not like it’s cheating I have to think to myself “No, it’s not LIKE cheating, it IS cheating”.

I haven’t got a problem with lap dancing clubs if we lived in a non-sexist society where it didn’t badly affect the dancers or other women, but unfortunately it does, quite a lot sometimes. Recent issues over stag dos come to mind, although at least with my past career choices I would never fall for the same lines that everyone else seems to, and my partner has now been forced to accept that this issue is definitely non-negotiable!!

More power to you and I wish you the best for the future!

amen // Posted 20 October 2009 at 1:50 pm

Women might not be doing it to ‘tittilate’, there’s a reason the pay is so good.

Jackie Bather // Posted 20 October 2009 at 1:57 pm

Sorry …to other women, for my slightly grumpy remark at the end of my previous comment…I know I am not the only person finding this male correspondent to be unhelpful.

thebeardedlady // Posted 20 October 2009 at 2:50 pm

@ David,

Thanks so much for coming along to tell us what the issues are! That’s great. I’m sure that we are all so grateful for your manly words of wisdom. After all, if it wasn’t for men like you telling us how we’ve missed the point and what we should really be thinking, we would still be mindlessly going along debating the issues amongst ourselves! Just us feminists! Imagine that.

Have you considered that, rather than society ‘allowing’ women to titillate men, that society in fact disallows and punishes women who try to do anything *other* than titillate men? That feminists’ objections to lapdancing etc are based less on prudishness (what you style ‘morality’) and more on the idea that women are human beings and should be able to engage in society as such, and that institutions which perpetuate the idea that women are mere objects available for sexual objectification and gratification (or ‘titillation’) are thoroughly sexist and demeaning to ALL women (not just sex workers)? Did you ever, I wonder, think that feminists don’t have any kind of problem AT ALL with sex workers and what they choose to do with their bodies, but a big helping of problemo when it comes to the people and institutions that perpetuate discrimination against women?

Ever think about any of that? No? Is that because you were too busy bringing your wisdom and insight to actually listen to what we are saying?

gadgetgal // Posted 20 October 2009 at 2:55 pm

@Jackie

I quite liked your comments – I must admit, since I tend to hear David’s side of the argument in all other spaces in life (since, let’s be honest, it’s mostly straight cis blokies who get their say in every other arena) it’s very good to hear him being blasted all round for churning it up again here!

sianmarie // Posted 20 October 2009 at 3:36 pm

what everyone bar david said.

to me, stripping, lap dancing, raunch culture whatever is censorship of women’s bodies and sexual expression. it suggests that women’s purpose is to be sexy, to be titillating, in the very narrow confine of the faked sexuality promoted in these areas.

it is not prudish to want to change this. in fact to me, it is more honest and open to say that women and female bodies and sexualities and minds and thoughts and emotions are more than dancing round a pole. the prudes are those who think sexuality should be reduced to women dancing to titillate men.

also the money arguement doesn’t and has nevr washed with me. the question shouldn’t be that women earn good money stripping so what’s the problem, the question should be why the f*** in modern society do we still have such a strong pay gap that enables this to happen

Daniela Vincenti // Posted 20 October 2009 at 6:14 pm

I think we need to accept that David is just a troll that is trying to be clever and as such is best left unfed.

Moving on I think that there is an important question we feminists need to be brave enough to ask, and this question has been plagueing me in previous posts about prostitution and pornography. It was Catherine Redfern that first pointed out this dilemma to me a while ago and I have been intermittently thinking about it since then.

Is it the unidirectionality (men buying and women selling) of the sex industry that bothers us, or is it the sex industry itself?

My personal take is that there is enough that is ethically ambiguous in the sex trade to suggest that a social movement with a moral compass, like feminism, should discourage it. Others, however, will argue that we need to start giving men a taste of their own medicine, so to speak.

The answer to this question, is important as it determines what changes we need to push for. If the sex trade is morally dubious in any case we need to push for denormalisation. If the unidirectionality is more of a problem than maybe Object are barking up the wrong tree and we should be organising an F-Word get together at a Chippendale show.

In any case, I think it is helpful to reach a decision as otherwise we are sending a contradictory message that will be interpreted as hypocrisy.

Any forthcoming opinions?

Kath // Posted 20 October 2009 at 9:47 pm

Hear, hear.. to everyone except David

gadgetgal // Posted 21 October 2009 at 10:13 am

@Daniela

I’m actually not sure myself which way to go, I think the way the industry is at the moment it’s main problem is it’s one-sidedness. There really isn’t any sexual outlet that is equivalent for women. You mentioned the Chippendales but most women find them funny rather than erotic. Also the contact is much less and they don’t tend to provide the “extras” that most lap dancers are expected to include. Funnily enough I think this is why men can also generally dismiss our concerns but we still end up bothered by it – my husband tried to use that as an example of how women can have the same thing as men, but seemed uncomfortable when I pointed out that it doesn’t really affect women in the same way (not all of them, but most it seems). I said if he was happy for me to be the one stripping and doing sexual things for and with his mates (not icky old strangers, that was just yuck) then that was probably a lot closer a sexual buzz for me to what is available for him right now at a lap dancing club. He didn’t take me up on my offer (boo) and said he’d forgo the pleasure instead!

Ah well, I did try…

Anyway, I reckon a two-pronged approach is needed – it needs to made simultaneously fairer and also de-normalised. I say this because in making it fairer I reckon you’d end up with more people in a situation like mine (even if it was legal I doubt many straight men would really like their partners to have a sexual experience that didn’t involve them), and also it wouldn’t stop any other women who want to experience it, sexuality isn’t wrong. The normalisation of porn culture is a slightly different matter – even if you can get get porn freely and fairly, it seems to be a bad thing to say to young people and children “this is the only thing that matters and that you should be aiming to do”. Sex shouldn’t be the top most important thing in the world like it is now!

That’s why I support what Object do – I don’t see it as just wanting to say no to sexuality, I just see it as a means to obtain some kind of balance, both between what is provided for men and women, and also a balance in life so it doesn’t take over and become the most important thing to all of us. With pretty much all pornographic material and services being male-oriented the only way for that to happen is to try and cut it back from the mainstream, it won’t hurt what little is out there for women because that’s not what’s being normalised.

Carrie // Posted 21 October 2009 at 12:59 pm

Hi there,

I am part of a group of local residents called LAP OFF, who managed to prevent a lap dancing club from opening in our London neighbourhood.

We have now set up a website with all of our campaign advise & information, in the hopes that this will help and inspire people who are battling similar establishments in their towns.

Here is is: http://lapoff.ning.com/

Good luck!

Carrie.

Kath // Posted 21 October 2009 at 8:45 pm

Hi Daniela,

I don’t have time for a detailed response to the question you pose, but here are a few thoughts. For me the answer is both. I oppose the sex industry in general for commodifying human beings and sexuality and I deplore the way it’s directionality contributes to objectifying women for men’s pleasure. I think it’s worth considering that the two are not unrelated. The fact that women make up the vast majority of the supply side of the sex industry obviously is mostly to do with economics but it’s also an acceptable sexual role for women to play because it degrades and disempowers. In other words, selling sex is not only harmful because it is done mainly by women, but also selling sex is done mainly by women because it is harmful.

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